Saturday, May 16, 2009

end "drug" war now

HuffPo | Sen. Jim Webb has introduced legislation, with co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, to create a blue-ribbon commission to examine criminal justice and drug policies and how they have led to our nation's jam-packed jails -- now filled with tens of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders.

"With so many of our citizens in prison compared with the rest of the world," Webb wrote in a recent Parade cover story, "there are only two possibilities: Either we are home to the most evil people on earth or we are doing something different--and vastly counterproductive. Obviously, the answer is the latter."

I understand that drugs continue to be a political hot potato, fueled by what the Latin American presidents described as "prejudices and fears that sometimes bear little relation to reality." And I can easily picture some on the president's team advising him to keep the issue on the backburner lest it turn into his "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

But the cost of the drug war -- both human and financial -- is far too high to allow politics to dictate the administration's actions. Indeed, with all the budget cutting going on, how can anyone justify spending tens of billions of dollars a year on an unwinnable war against our own people?

Change won't be easy. The prison-industrial complex has a deeply vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Which is why we need to keep the pressure on the president and his team to follow through on their drug policy promises.

As with the regulation of Wall Street, real reform of our nation's drugs policies won't happen without someone in the administration making it a top priority.